Sree Chaityanya, Sylhet and Orbit of Civilization for Bengal

More than 500 years ago there came one great saint in Navadeep, now in West Bengal of India who was a deconstrcutive force in the continuous chain of India's spiritual tradition and brought the practical implication of Lord Krishna's statement in The Gita where he says that in the age of Kali there lies no other way but - harernam, harenama.  The great Sankirtan movement was born and Lord Chaitanya passed into history along with Shankara whose Mayabad has outlived its social time and gave birth to a cankerous idlers.  The parents of Sree Chaintanya Mahaprabu and lots of its closest associates including Adwita Acharya, Sreebas Pundit were having their ancestral villages at Syhlet. Navadeep at that time was a very famed centre for Sanskrit learning and especially Logic  with a veritable array of pundits. Lord Chaitanya started his career as one of those dry pundits but in between the  longing for Divine diluted thie pundit so much that he had started finding Lord Krishna in the blue waters of Ocean. His presence became a living one , both as a spiritual leader and and as a historical personna.

Sufism made its entry into Syhlet by early 14th century. There were alreadyVaishnav  traditions

existing at that part. Coming of Chaitanya became a living force and a beautiful thing happened - a cross-cultural interaction started between Sufism and Vaishava Bhakti-cult which shaped not only a spiritual harmony of unique nature but produced wonderful and noveau work on poetry, prose and folk art. There were rare moments of humour and Lord Chaitanya is connected with a beautiful incident which has been recorded by Brindavan Das.

Without going into the linguist's debate whether the Syhlleti was a language or a dialect whether its has its own morphology or not, one thing is clear - to an unaccustommed Bengali ear, the syhlleti dialect will be partially intelligible. If you are intersted to know more of this facet of  syhlleti, please see Syhlleti as a language

Once  Lord Chaitanya was in a rhetorical meeting where also assembled lots of pundits of Srihatta called Srihattias. There,  Chaintanya made a special joke on the dialect of the Syhlletis probably on the lack of absence of nay nasal sound and peculiarities of  sh- sound as compared to written and spoken Bengali of official category. The entire Syhlleti pundits became angry and asked him about his own origin. There they answered that he himself is a Srihattaia's son and is its reasonable on his part to amke fun of Srihattias ? What Lord Chaitanya answered is not recorded by the chronicler but we expect that he might have given an yielding smile in silence. We are reproducing eight lines from Chaitanya-Bhagbat, narrating the same incident in rhyming verses -

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All other later commentators also recorded Chaitanya's conatct with Syhlet and Syhlletis. It was the period on which the modern Bengali language was slowly condensing to  form with lyric and descriptive poetry work already started. Also we record the intermingling of Urdu and Perisan words which  came to its full flowering in the works of the poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.  Bengali and its dialect speaking Hindus were finding Persian in administrative as well as in the theological side.  Persian Sufism was well in its place and Sha Jalal was already a living force in Syhlet. There were rare flashes of humour mixed with statement of afcts, this time from the  descriptive long-poem Chaitanyamangal :

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   With a beard the Brahmin reads Perisian

    And with sock-clad feet handles cannon.

    The twice-born man will recite masnabi

   And there will be trouble a while.

These were reactions of a society which was not only enduring another culture but was approaching a dialogue with it. The very usage of the Persian words (including Persian)  reflect that the osmosis of tongue has already started and heart was playing second fiddle on it.

But in this dialogue where the rabab of Persia was  pulsating with the flute of Bhakti, one wonderful thing happened and we are thankful that poets have recorded it where historian's lamented of documentation. In various cultures at their matured levels,  Divine was considered to be not far away but within. The grandest of divine attributes were observed, sung and elevated into the enterprises of common human beings. Remember Pieta of Michaelangelo, we remember "man mirza, tan sahiba" , we remeber  Radha-Kanu, we remember Demeter and Persephone and in most recent times, we remember Dante-Beatrice. This poetic discovery, this theism of creative imagination with experience of mystic order touch that fragile borderline between flesh and what lies beyond it.  We are reproducing three represtative poems from poet Sha Arkoom which are small as diamonds and as dispersive as a diamond is.

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After playing, Kanu has kept the flute in  trunk of Kadam ,                  Body is Radha and  Kanu is the Mind

The air passes through and the flute says - Radha, Radha.                 Radha-Kanu  will meet together - two and half hand down under

But the paradox is haunting to all mystics, the temptation of the flesh too high. The mind is without bounds but the flesh has its own gravity to prevent escape. Why is that cycle of birth-death-birth and again ? Buddha has answered this, all philosophers and seers have their own way of answering. Why such unrest, why such melancholy ? Why this lifelong hunt to express, to regenerate, to recreate ?

The poet has an answer which is as simple, as banal and as credible :

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    Me and Thou - Thou and Me as I know

   Why the seed-born again hold seeds on its fruit ?

    Love is the only Cause for this division

    Since then , Lover is in eternal tension.

In line with the tremendous power of assimilation that Indian Culture has and which sometimes uncannily resemble as a feminine womb for virile and expanding civilization, the interaction between the different schools of spiritual thoughts at Greater Bengal and Syhlet connects two world-views on a tone of harmony which is fragile and heceforth requires tremendous creative care to sustain it.

We have come across a recent one where this feeling of spiritual oneness and told in almost in normal tone while displaying the rich texture of Persian on the Bengali fabric